On my way north from Eugene to Corvallis, I eschewed I-5 and took the slow road through the agricultural region just east of the shore of Oregon. On my way of passing through Monroe (population 617) I noticed a strange building to my left, which looked like a train depot, but there was something different about it. It turned out it was the town’s library! I decided to take a look-see. It was quite a gem…
I walked into center point which was flanked by two wings. (Kind of like the floor plan of the library in Bend..a pattern perhaps?) The center room was lovely with comfy chairs and a fireplace all welcoming to induce a person to come and read. I moved to the left wing and noticed that it was in the shape of a depot, complete with a railroad wigwag sign at the end. In the wing to my right was the library proper, and what a library! It was open floor plan with cathedral ceilings but with a nod to the railroad era. I talked to Alison, one of the two librarians who were on that day. She said she had been with this library for many years now, and was proud to have been involved in the project that brought this library to fruition. The left wing was a depot, but it was revamped into meeting space and a historical depository. She showed me the meeting spaces. It was state of the art for the most part, with a larger room that they use for library programming, dancing lessons, public meetings, and pretty much anything else the town requires. In that room, the architect left a relic from its old days as a depot, a cartoon “Carl’s Girl” drawn presumably by one of the workers of a famous (for that time) cartoon character from the Toonerville Folks series. It’s a fabulous room which any library would be envious of. In order to be more self-sufficient, especially as they keep illuminated at night, the library retrofitted the roof to have solar panels. They have thus far this year generated 40kwh of electricity and the lighting only takes about 32kwh. They’re discussing what to do with the overage. I asked Jacque how all this is possible in a relatively small community, especially since it seemed pretty conservative. She said the governing body at Corvallis (which oversees four libraries in the region) is very proactive and they find ways of reminding the smaller communities that an innovative and well-funded library gives dividends back to the communities multifold in that it helps raise not only the standard of living, but it enhances the tax rolls as well by increasing property values.
She showed me some of the programs the library spearheaded to make up for the lack of the arts and other vehicles of critical thinking that are lacking in their school system. One of the items is a “Maker Kit” which can be checked out and brought home with a child so that he or she can get creative as their wasn’t any arts education currently in the local schools. There are also shelves full of games and toys ready to be played with. I talked to her a bit about my crusade regarding accessible wifi, and she said yes, in her opinion wifi should be "a utility" available to all. Her library keeps their wifi on all day and night as a courtesy to their community when they are not open. I told her about my experience with what library in Ontario told me in that they had to shut theirs off after hours due to vandalism, etc. She said that should not happen in this community as they are still really too small for that kind of thing to happen.
Lastly, I asked her if she had an MLIS as it seemed to me she knew a lot about the managing of a library, she said no, in fact she didn’t even have a bachelor’s degree, but the people she works for are very generous in the amount of resources and money they give towards professional development. It definitely showed.
For all intents and purposes this new library has now become the centerpiece of a town that is on the way up.. Bravo!
Gallery below: A.) The welcoming fireplace at the apex of the building. B. and C.) The deport wing with original wigwag sign. D.) The larger room which contains "Carl's Girl". E.) "Carl's Girl", 1936. F.) The smaller room which is good for study meeting and presentations. G. and H.) The main library wing. I.) A nice nook to sit and read, located in the main wing. J.) A "Maker Kit" K.) "How To" instructions for patrons to utilized their ebook and audiobook resources. L.) Games and toys for the kids (and adults). M.) A cathedral ceiling in the apex area, which echos its past as a rail depot. M. and N.) Outside shots. O., P. and Q.) Historical relics and geologic gems from the local historical society and library itself located in the depot wing.